Jacksonville University is ringing with the area’s finest young vocalists this week. Hosting District IV Music Performance Assessments, the Jacksonville University community welcomes hundreds of middle and high school choir students as well as chaperones, directors, and adjudicators from the Florida Vocal Association to campus.
These assessments allow choirs and directors to receive valuable feedback from experienced educators. Comments are designed to be encouraging and constructive, offering suggestions for how programs can be strengthened in future years.
“Music has literally always been a part of our university, and through this art, we can support young musicians across our region,” says Jacksonville University Director of Choral Activities Dr. Julian Bryson. “Many rarely get to sing in a space with acoustics like Terry Concert Hall. For them, this experience could be truly transformative.”
The performing students not only have access to Jacksonville University’s state-of-the-art performance facilities, but they also have exposure to expert adjudicators from across the state who contribute constructive feedback and guidance.
“One of the best parts of the event is the sight-singing requirement. By including it, every choir who appears has to spend time on music literacy. Developing this skill opens so many musical doors for students. On the one hand, singers can learn music more quickly and tackle more complicated repertoire. Additionally, sight-singing is an important component in auditions for college music scholarships, so these competitions help prepare students to pay for their college degree,” says Dr. Bryson.
For our current Jacksonville University students, this is an opportunity for them to witness behind the scenes of a major festival: something they might host at their own schools in the future. This is true of alumni Timothy Keatley, internationally recognized for his barbershop quartet On Point, and AJ Neaher, who are bringing their choirs from First Coast High School and Riverside High School for the District MPAs.
Keatley said, “Attending the District Vocal MPA was definitely an eye-opening experience for not only my students, but for me as their director. I am so proud of the progress they have made and for them to share their talents with the district. Being able to bring them to my alma mater for the event was a proud feeling. For me it was an opportunity to relive some of the best choral moments of my life on the same stage in the same concert hall with my students. They do not know it yet, but this is just the beginning of a treasure trove of memories that can only be made through the choral experience and will be cherished by them for years to come.”
Jacksonville University is hoping to host these events more in the future.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to bring students to our campus,” Dr. Bryson said. “Many of those who will join us are fantastic musicians and might be a part of our music program, but most will likely major in other disciplines. We always say that students should be careful about visiting our campus because once they visit, they tend to stick around. Who knows how many students might ‘stick around’ after visiting this week.”
By Jenna Blyler